How to Move to California

IMG_2451 1. Decide to do it. Or decide to consider it vaguely within the realm of possibility when a partner looks around your room full of San Francisco gift shop crap in September of your senior year and says, “What’s stopping you?” and you discover you don’t have a real answer.

2. Fall in love with a publishing house and apply for an internship in February. Do a shot of vodka with a friend before hitting send on the email—wince as you do so because you haven’t had vodka since you were a freshman and it has not improved. The shot is from your San Francisco tourist shot glass, of course, for good luck. Try not to obsessively check your email on your smart phone every five minutes during lectures. Eventually get the internship, drink in the middle of the day because you don’t have class, and try not to think about what this means for your relationships on the East coast.

3. Realize you have to find somewhere to live, send out dozens of emails to sketchy listings on Craigslist, almost give up before someone gets back to you. Boom! It’s a match. Send the check in the mail and try not to be flustered by having to Google ‘how to write a check.’

4. Tell people ‘I’m moving to California’ and realize you sound like a total jerk. Embrace it. You’re moving to California. Make a lot of jokes about hearing they have more bounce there, which is sadly too dated a reference for most to catch.

5. Book your plane ticket. Or more accurately, ask your dad to book your planet ticket for you because airlines websites scare you and while it is your money, you hate spending that much of it at once. Feel a weird relief when the itinerary arrives in your email inbox—it’s inevitable now.

6. Somewhere in this process deal with leaving everything you know—your family, your friends, the seasons, familiar public transit, all of your stuff, every comforting routine, the easy route—behind. Sit on the dirty floor of the kitchen in your apartment and panic. Share the panic with one of your roommates who sinks down onto the linoleum beside you. There will be a lot of Tuesday nights scrunching your face into ugly expressions in a failed attempt not to let tears leak. Your boyfriend says you can cry but you don’t want to, it seems wasteful. You are getting what you have wanted for four years, the Bay Bridge, the chance to start over, the career opportunities. It just took a while to realize it would mean losing so much too. 7. Google ‘hipster berkeley’ to see what cool bars and shops are near your apartment and immediately judge yourself for it. You will make friends. You need to relax. It’s a college town, it’ll be fine.

8. Actually graduate from college. Get a massive sunburn. Be too emotionally burnt out to really cry when saying goodbye to everyone, except at the airport when dropping off your boyfriend because airports demand ugly sobbing in front of disconcerted strangers. Have a frustrated hissy fit when packing all of the junk you accumulated over the past nine months because of the dust and Diet Coke bottle caps. The final walk up Foss after handing in your key feels oddly anti-climactic. Wonder if you’re suppressing the distress everyone else is feeling so readily.

9. Half unpack and then pack again, except now it’s just two suitcases for all of your clothes and bedding and miscellaneous sentimental stuff. Assume you will buy whatever you wind up needing once you arrive to avoid ridiculous airline costs. Panic until your mother offers to ship you whatever you cannot fit. Your boyfriend says he will bring groceries when he drives up from Los Angeles. And by groceries he means Diet Coke, obviously.

10. Throw up everything in your stomach when you hit turbulence flying over Nevada. Land in Oakland shaky, dizzy and tearstained. Freak out your new roommate with how anti-social you are due to your inability to stand up for very long. All of the graduation angst will hit you on that first night when you are alone in a musty apartment living with a stranger in a city where you know no one. You miss picking up Diet Coke at Weshop. You miss your roommates chirping about the latest student forum. You miss your parents, who would no doubt bring you water and coo over you about being sick. Call your boyfriend, who is playing video games and is amused because he has never heard you cranky before. Eventually sleep even though you are freezing (what the hell is Bay area weather?).

11. Wake up to a room full of light. The ceiling is high, the windows are gorgeous and open easily, the closet is absurdly large. The apartment upstairs is being remodeled and construction is loud and okay, yes, you totally didn’t pack well for the climate. Get dressed, go pick up your keys from the apartment manager, put on your leather jacket and google local diners. You just moved to California. IMG_2447

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Ella Dawson is a sex and culture critic and a digital strategist. She drinks too much Diet Coke.

5 thoughts on “How to Move to California

  1. I love this. I love where you went. I love where you arrived, with Cleis as well. You know? So much is going to happen for you in the next, oh, 30 years…… you will be fine and you will never regret your time with them. I know this, deeply in my heart. I was you once. Fresh out of UCSB, years before the MA. Explore the city, breathe, have fun. Write everything. Read Erica Jong. Know there is heterofeminism that started in the 70’s so strongly — got lost in the late 80’s and 90’s, and now in you is reborn — and it’s a very long line of women whose torch you are carrying. Hugs little sis. From just down the road a piece.

    1. That’s actually really good advice, thank you. Definitely trying to write everything. And I read Fear of Flying for my thesis and absolutely loved it, will steal her other books from my dad the next time I visit my parents.

      1. I met her at the SBWC sev years ago. At 13 I had started on her poems, so long ago. I bought FEAR at the last conf but have not read it yet. She signed my little poetry books tho –all these years later. Boy is she like #1 Feminism for tail end Boom gen. Only it was so much easier for her gen, really. I think it was. Did my MA thesis on the film “The Piano” for Depth Psych. Women, Depression, Creativity and the lethal triangle plus the allure of Baines. So nice to meet you.

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